FIFA Soccer 11 review
Available for
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii
Publisher
EA Sports
FIFA Soccer 11

Reviewed by Jason Zingale

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here’s no denying that EA Sports has solved the riddle of what makes a great soccer game, but after last year’s near-perfect “FIFA Soccer 10,” expectations were always going to be set higher. EA’s own “Madden” football series has struggled with that same problem for the last few years, because although each installment has managed to be just as good as the last, there’s not always enough differentiating the two to warrant a similar rating. “FIFA Soccer 11” doesn’t suffer from being too similar to its predecessor, however, but rather a little too different. While all of the core elements remain, a few key features have been updated that will almost certainly force you to change the way you play. It’s still the same “FIFA" we know and love, but you might need to spend some extra time with it before becoming a maestro on the pitch once again.

One of the biggest changes in this year’s installment is the addition of Personality+, an all-new feature that reflects every player’s individual abilities based on their real-world counterparts. So if you have a player who’s great in the air, he’s more likely to score off a header. But while distinguishing each player by basic skill sets like passing, shooting and tackling creates a more realistic experience, it also makes for slightly more frustrating gameplay, because teams that aren’t as deep as big clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona are handicapped even more than they were before. Additionally, world class players don’t have nearly as big of an effect as they should on the outcome of a game, while goalkeepers are almost too proficient in stopping shots.

The improvements to goalkeeping awareness are probably to blame for that last part, but it’s almost worth the smaller scorelines to have a more dependable keeper at your end of the pitch. They react far more intelligently than in the past, sprinting off their line to scoop up loose balls and dealing with lob shots more regularly, which means that you won’t give up quite as many silly goals. This year also marks the debut of Be A Goalkeeper mode, a feature that many people have been clamoring for ever since Be A Pro mode was introduced. Unfortunately, while it might sound like fun to control the guy in between the sticks for once, it’s the gaming equivalent of watching paint dry. Unless you’re playing behind a really bad defense, you’ll be called on very rarely during the course of a game. The camera angles are also terrible, and although it’s nice to finally be able to play true 11-on-11 online, you do so at the risk of getting stuck playing goalie.

Controlling field players has problems of its own. Everyone seems to run at the exact same speed (making through balls nearly impossible to play), and the new Pro Passing System, which penalizes you for poor decisions and over/under striking the ball, isn’t very forgiving considering the amount of defensive pressure that the CPU applies. The much-maligned penalty system from “2010 FIFA World Cup: South Africa” also makes a not-so-triumphant return (although it’s not as bad as I remember it), and referees are especially cruel when calling fouls and handing out cards. For the most part, though, the good always outweighs the bad, and for my money, the best thing that “FIFA Soccer 11” has to offer is an updated Career Mode that lets you play as a Virtual Pro, a manager, or a player-manager, all within the same season. It’s small but smart tweaks like this that future installments need more of, because while “FIFA Soccer 11” is still the best soccer game on the market, it fails to fill the boots of its predecessor.

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